Excellent image quality from the moment you turn it on; the Viera TX-P42ST50B is a true Best Buy
42in, Analogue, Freeview HD, 1,920×1,080 resolution, 3D: yes, 3x HDMI
For this review we tested the 42in model in the ST50 range, but it’s also available in 50in (TX-P50ST50B), 55in (TX-P55ST50B) and 65in (TX-P65ST50B) screen sizes. All models have identical specifications except for their dimensions and power usage. We’re confident that image quality will be practically identical across the range.
The ST50 is one of Panasonic’s mid-range plasma TVs, but that doesn’t mean you miss out on plenty of high-end features or the same fantastic image quality we’ve come to expect from plasma technology. We looked at the 42in model, but it’s also available in 50in, 55in and 65in models for £1,100, £1,700 and £2,200 respectively.
From the moment you switch it on, it’s clear that the ST50’s image quality is on another level, especially its amazing contrast. Each black pixel is created by the absence of light rather than by a liquid crystal blocking a backlight, and the difference is impressive. More importantly, colours are more accurate and distinct. Colours are more accurate and distinct because no light bleeds through and mixes with neighbouring pixels. In Casino Royale’s opening chase scene, which is set in a beach-front building site, the shots of the sea looked far more convincing thanks to the pin-point reflections in the choppy water.
The downside is increased power consumption, and the ST50B can draw up to 240W of power. This is significantly better than plasmas of previous years, but it’s still higher than the average LCD TV.
As with most modern TVs, standard definition content still looks distinctly average regardless of image quality. However, the ST50B’s noise reduction technology works quite well and helps reduce the blocky compression artefacts you normally get.
The ST50B’s image quality options are clearly presented and useful. The most common options, such as brightness and contrast controls, are laid out on the first page, but it has a menu for more advanced options too. The best thing is that you really don’t need to touch the options at all. Out of the box, it’s got better raw image quality than most TVs at this price.
Panasonic’s choice of internet services is good, and the interface is easy to use. You get a preview screen in the middle that has seven apps arranged around it and a market at the bottom. Major services include Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Skype, Picasa, ShoutCast Radio, Facebook and Twitter.
It also has a media player that can play from a USB drive, SD card or network media server. It isn’t fussy about the USB port in which your drive is inserted and it plays a wide variety of files, including FLAC (but not OGG) and most of the HD video formats we used, excluding DivX HD.
You can also plug a memory stick in to the first USB port (marked HDD) to record, pause and resume live TV. Unfortunately, this requires a disk greater than 16GB in size, so you won’t be able to use cheap 4GB or 8GB USB drives.
At £850, the ST50B is great value. It has great native image quality and some clever technologies such as motion smoothing. Its internet services are comprehensive and easy to use, and its media playing facilities are brilliant. It’s an excellent TV that deserves its Best Buy award.
|Speakers||2x 4W, 10W subwoofer|
|Audio outputs||optical S/PDIF out|
|Other||headphone output, CI slot, 2x USB, LAN port, SDXC card slot, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi|
|Tuner type||Analogue, Freeview HD|
|Power consumption standby||13W|
|Power consumption on||240W|
|Warranty||one year RTB|